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State and municipal governments across the country are clamoring for the federal government to rescue them from what could quickly become a fiscal catastrophe, saying that they may need as much as three quarters of a trillion dollars as the coronavirus pandemic dries up many of their revenue sources.
Without the help, these governments will need to lay off or furlough workers, reduce benefits, cancel projects, defer construction and maintenance and more. The impact of the fiscal crisis "will be even worse than the Great Recession — by a factor of at least two," warned Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio.
But state and local governments like Dayton's will have to wait until at least May before Congress considers further economic relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated. The House is set to vote Thursday on an interim round of coronavirus aid aimed at small businesses, and while Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to shore up state and local budgets, the money didn't make it into the final bill because of objections from Republicans and the Trump administration.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Stay-at-home orders across the country: What each state is doing — or not — amid widespread coronavirus lockdowns.
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Senators call on HHS, FEMA watchdogs to investigate administration's COVID-19 response
A group of 10 Democratic senators is calling on the inspectors general for the Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA to investigate the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This obfuscation underscores the need for clarity as to how decisions regarding the seizure and redistribution of supplies are being made, and whether or not they are tainted with political interference," the senators wrote in a letter to the watchdogs on Tuesday.
The letter was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Several of the senators also sent a separate letter to the accountability committee established by the last major coronavirus relief package to oversee the pandemic response, calling on it "to investigate the partisan and political nature of the White House's actions."
“Americans should not have to wonder whether their lives are being put at risk by the President's concern for his political prospects amidst a public health and economic calamity,” they wrote.
'Health Force' would recruit Americans into careers fighting coronavirus
In the United States' effort to stomp out the spread of the coronavirus, two Democratic senators are taking a cue from a national program launched during the Great Depression to galvanize today's workforce.
Proposed legislation announced Wednesday by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., would create a "Health Force" that would recruit, train and employ Americans — ideally, pulling from among the millions now unemployed during the pandemic — into public health and health care careers.
The senators said the bill is a nod to the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, which was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 and put millions of Americans to work building roads, schools, water lines and other infrastructure.
NYC expanding testing, prioritizing residents in public housing, mayor says
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said that as part of a plan to greatly expand testing for the coronavirus in the city, six new test sites will open in the next few days that will prioritize the approximately 400,000 residents in public housing.
De Blasio said masks will also be provided to residents in the New York City Housing Authority, the nation’s largest public-housing system, and hand sanitizers will be given to those who are elderly.
Pelosi says Trump gets an 'F' on coronavirus: 'Delay, denial, death'
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., excoriated President Donald Trump Wednesday morning for what she called his lack of preparation and poor handling of coronavirus testing across the country.
Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "if you do not test, you cannot possibly know the size of the challenge," which she said is why testing is the key to reopening the U.S. economy.
"For our seniors in nursing homes and the rest, as you say, there's a big toll being taken there. But if we can test and contact and isolate people, we're on a very much better path," Pelosi said. "There's a Boy Scout saying, 'Proper preparation prevents poor performance.' Well, that is exactly where the president gets an F."
"He was not properly prepared, not with the truth, with the facts, or the admission of what was happening in our country — delay, whatever, delay, denial, death," she added. "And instead we'd like to see him insist on the truth and we must insist on the truth with him."
Trump to sign executive order limiting immigration due to coronavirus
President Donald Trump said in a tweet Wednesday morning that he would formally sign an executive order later in the day limiting immigration to the U.S. for the next 60 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump first tweeted about the order Monday night, vowing to "temporarily suspend immigration," and unveiled some details of the plan Tuesday.
He said his order would "pause" issuing green cards — a mandatory steppingstone to citizenship — for 60 days and would then revisit the policy depending on economic conditions.
NYC Fourth of July fireworks will go on in some fashion, mayor says
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that he is working with Macy's, the sponsor of New York City's annual Fourth of July fireworks show, to find a safe way to celebrate the holiday.
"We don't know exactly what it's going to look like yet," de Blasio said in a video he tweeted Wednesday morning. "There's a lot of things we're going to have to work through. But what we know for sure is, this wonderful show will go on."
The mayor announced this week the cancellation of June's Celebrate Israel and Puerto Rican Day parades as well as the Pride March for the first time in that event's half-century history.
Fire officials warn against microwaving masks to sterilize them
Fire departments around the country are warning people not to microwave their face masks to sterilize them, saying it will likely cause a fire.
"There is a troubling trend in which people are microwaving masks in an effort to kill the germs. A lot of people don't know that there is metal inside the mask to help you shape it to your nose. Microwaving a mask could cause your microwave to catch fire!" said a statement from the fire department in Reading, Massachusetts.
In Tennessee, the Greeneville/Greene County, Tennessee, Office of Emergency Management also begged; "Please do NOT microwave your hand made masks."
Fire officials in Fairfax, Virginia; White County, Georgia; La Plata, Maryland; and the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal's Office also shared pictures of scorched masks, and warned people against the dangerous practice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning cloth masks in a washing machine.
Tackle pandemic and climate change together, Thunberg urges on Earth Day
The world needs to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis together, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said Wednesday. Speaking at an online Earth Day event, the teen activist emphasized that actions taken to tackle the pandemic did not mean the climate crisis had gone away.
"Today is Earth Day and that reminds us that climate and the environmental emergency is still ongoing," she said, before stressing that the pandemic made it clearer than ever that we need to "listen to scientists and other experts."
In a separate streamed event, the World Meteorological Organization urged the world to show the same "solidarity and science" demonstrated in fighting the pandemic to tackle the climate crisis.
Russian student returns home after four days in German airport
A student from Russia was forced to sleep in a transit terminal at Frankfurt Airport in Germany for four days due to coronavirus travel bans, a Federal Police official told NBC News on Wednesday.
The male student returned to his native Russia Tuesday night as a passenger on a freight plane after trying to enter Germany to take up a place at a university in Berlin. He had previously tried to enter the country in Berlin on March 20, but was turned away because of coronavirus restrictions, officials said.
"Anyone who travels to foreign countries at this time risks getting stuck at an airport," the police official said, adding that the transit area had showers, toilets, food facilities and some field beds, which were made available by the airline. Both Russia and Germany have flight restrictions in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Britain's lawmakers hold weekly Prime Minister's Questions on Zoom
Lawmakers in the U.K. made history on Wednesday, taking part in the first ever virtual Prime Minister's Questions — minus the usual loud jeering heard in the House of Commons. The coronavirus pandemic meant that no more than 50 members of parliament could sit in the chamber at one time, and tape was placed on the floor to help with social distancing. TV screens were installed to allow up to 120 external lawmakers to take part in the debates.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab stood in for Boris Johnson, who was still recovering following his hospitalization for coronavirus on earlier this month. Raab faced off against the new Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who used his first PMQs to question the government on the rate of testing in the U.K.
NBC News' Richard Engel on today's coronavirus headlines
Companies give Yemen tens of thousands of test kits to ease shortage
A group of multinational companies said on Wednesday it was donating tens of thousands of coronavirus test kits and medical equipment to Yemen, where a five-year war has destroyed the health system and left millions vulnerable to disease.
Yemen, which has very limited testing capabilities, has reported only one laboratory-confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, announced on April 10. The United Nations and aid groups have warned of a catastrophic outbreak should the disease spread among an acutely malnourished population.
The International Initiative on COVID-19 in Yemen said in a statement that its first 34-ton shipment would reach Yemen next week and contained virus collection kits, rapid test kits, and other equipment, which the United Nations will distribute.
London Fashion Week moves online
London Fashion Week will shift online in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the British Fashion Council said Tuesday. Taking on a new form as a digital-only event, it will run online from June 12 and it will be accessible to both trade and consumer audiences.
"The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in," said Caroline Rush, British Fashion Council's chief executive. "By creating a cultural fashion week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and something to build on as a global showcase for the future."
The event, which will feature both men's and women's fashion, will offer content from designers as well as podcasts, webinars and digital showrooms, the organizers said.
Japanese park beheads 100,000 tulips during coronavirus state of emergency
Missouri sues China alleging it 'lied to the world' about coronavirus
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government Tuesday accusing it of lying about the danger posed by the coronavirus when it first emerged in late 2019.
"In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real," Schmitt said in a press release. "Thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table."
The state is the first in the country to seek damages in this way. Schmitt argues that the Chinese government "must be held accountable for their actions."
U.N. warns of 'hunger pandemic' amid threats of coronavirus, economic downturn
While the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the United Nations food agency warned on Tuesday that a looming "hunger pandemic" will bring "the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II."
Famine in as many as three dozen countries is "a very real and dangerous possibility" due to ongoing wars and conflicts, economic crises and natural disasters, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told the U.N. Security Council during a virtual briefing.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent economic ramifications, the food agency found an additional 130 million people could be on the brink of starvation by the end of the year. The working poor would be hit the hardest as a result of the decline in tourism and exports, collapse of oil prices and any declines to foreign aid.
142 Italian doctors have died of COVID-19
The coronavirus death toll among Italy's doctors has risen to 142, the country's Medical Professional Association showed Tuesday.
However, official figures also showed a new daily record for the number of people who have recovered from the virus, rising by 2,723 Tuesday to 51,600. Italy has suffered one of the worst global outbreaks with more than 24,000 deaths, figures from John Hopkins University show. Only the U.S. has reported more deaths to date.
The country is looking at gradually reopening parts of the economy with 2.5 to 2.8 million people in sectors such as construction and manufacturing expected to go back to work May 4th.
Experts: Isolated indigenous tribes risk extinction from virus
When English explorer John Hemming first arrived in 1971 in the Amazonian state of Rondônia in Brazil, at the lower end of the Tapajós River, it was just weeks after the local Suruí people had initiated their first contact with the outside world.
Soon after that expedition encountered previously uncontacted peoples, an influenza outbreak wiped out roughly a fifth of the area's 1,500 indigenous people, before measles devastated them two or three years later.
Experts and advocates for remote aboriginal communities not just in Brazil, but also elsewhere around the world, say they fear that geographic remoteness, an inability to socially isolate and poor access to health care might mean the COVID-19 pandemic could further imperil the existence of groups that survived earlier outbreaks.
Photo: Medical worker administers a swab test
What it's like to be stuck on a college campus
Virus caused U.S. fatalities earlier than previously thought
Officials in Silicon Valley late Tuesday reported two virus-related deaths that predate a Washington state fatality previously believed to be the first victim of COVID-19 in the United States.
The California deaths on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were not initially believed to have been related to the coronavirus.
The first U.S. COVID-19 death was reported Feb. 29 in Wsahington state.
"Today, the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)," the County of Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner said in a statement.
The examiner-coroner's office said limited testing criteria set by the federal government meant that the deaths were initially overlooked as possible coronavirus cases. Each victim died at home, it said.
Harlem church has lost 11 members to COVID-19
The senior pastor of Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church says that 11 of its members have died from the coronavirus illness COVID-19.
"When my phone rings, I'm always worried: Is it going to be another call with bad news?" Dr. Johnnie Green said Tuesday.
Green said that his congregation believes that faith in God is most authentic when it is tested, and he sees the trials of recent weeks as a test of faith.
"I believe that we're going to come out stronger," Green said.
New York City and state have been called the current epidemic of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States. There have been more than 19,000 deaths statewide, according to an NBC News count of reports that includes more than 4,000 deaths in New York City which are being called probable COVID-19 cases.